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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Authenticity and otherwise

When I started looking at getting myself an 18th century wardrobe I was all for authenticity.  My plan was to have a quasi 18th century dress I could wear while I was getting my outfit together.
But I have been questioning that for a little while now and have found some rather persuasive reasons for settling for 'something like'.
No. 1  I live in a warm climate so getting myself dressed up in multiple layers of clothing is something I could only contemplate for a few months a year in the midst of winter, if at all (Queensland isn't exactly known for cold winters).
No. 2  There aren't many places to wear 18th century garb around here.  So I'm likely to be sitting in the lounge room watching Poldark on video (with the airconditioning on).  Not that that is a bad thing.  But most persuasive of all...
No. 3  A recent health scare made me rethink my plans to squash my generous upper assets in a corset. Health first, last and always.
While wearing 'something like' may make me a target for those who like authenticity I am unlikely to run across many of them in my loungeroom while watching Ross Poldark smoulder at Elizabeth.
Yes it would be nice to be authentic but it's not everything.


  1. I know exactly how you feel. I used to strive for authenticity, as well, but I became less obsessed with it as time went on. It's fun to play with different fabrics and sewing techniques, and while I want the effect to look authentic, the sewing may not be period accurate. And I'm okay with that. :) It's like the article that American Duchess posted about the "historical costumer" verses the "historical reenactor". Reenactors have to focus on being period accurate...we get to play with fabric. ;-)

  2. You know, after going from blissfully, unknowingly inaccurate my first year of reenacting to now somewhat more informed, I really think that the only time someone deserves a critical eye for being un-authentic is when they claim they are 100% authentic. When you know what's accurate for your time period but have your own reasons for modifying it for yourself, that is SUCH a different matter than choosing not to do research and stubbornly clinging to your own notions that you're perfect.

    Plus I completely sympathize with the dislike of layers during hot weather. Summer reenactments here are the devil, and I have to think "ok, with no air conditioning and 100 degree heat, just how closely would Illinois French settler women have clung to full French fashion?"

    By the way, without knowing what your health scare was, I will say that my stays have been so comfortable and have even helped my back problems...they don't HAVE to be tight-laced, just supportive of your, er, assets. :)

  3. Thankyou both for the thoughtful responses. I liked your comments about reenactment and since there is nothing from my chosen period of the 18th century to reenact here in Queensland that's not going to be an issue.
    I have also often thought of those poor women in the First Fleet who came here and yes I expect they had to modify their clothing to cope with the 100 degree humid heat of the Queensland summer or they would have died. Even a hundred years later my great grandmother in her Victorian corsets and skirts must have nearly died in summer.

  4. Great post, and wonderful responses. As a reenactor who must be always authentic, I have had some miserable times in stays and layers in over 100 degree heat, and wondered, WHAT did they do back then..they MUST have cheated a bit.
    We look good, and the public loves us, but I'll bet 99% of them think we're nuts!